Hochul calls on Google, Yelp to help root out illegal weed shops

Governor Kathy Hochul is calling on "social media and big tech companies" to take action and end what she’s calling the online promotion of illicit cannabis storefronts.

At a press conference Wednesday, Hochul pointed to the large number of cannabis shops that pop up on Google maps. She says the vast majority of the results are for illegal, unlicensed businesses and places like Google and Yelp are "allowing the sowing of a lot of confusion in the marketplace."

Hochul says the illicit stores are not only putting people’s health in danger with unregulated products, but they’re also hurting business for those who went through the state process.

RELATED: Where are NYC's illegal weed shops getting their cannabis from? l Exclusive

Alfredo Alguiera, co-founder of the legal dispensary Con Bud, says his dispensary on the Lower East Side "is surrounded by approximately 71 illicit storefront shops within 1200 feet."

"They are siphoning money from a legal and legitimate system that was meant to rectify the harms that the war on cannabis has created," he said.

Hochul called on social media and tech companies in general, but she specifically named Google and Yelp. However, neither company seems poised to make any changes, according to statements they sent to FOX 5 NY.

"Yelp believes consumers have a First Amendment right to read and write about all businesses, even if unlicensed," a Yelp spokesperson said in part. "Allowing users to contribute and see information (including complaints) about unlicensed businesses serves the public interest."


NYC landlords could face daily $1K fines for housing illegal pot shops

Across the five boroughs, there are around 2,500 illegal weed shops, but earlier this year, Mayor Eric Adams launched a task force that aimed to crack down on the illegal stores by going after the landlords who rent out their spaces to the vendors.

Google told FOX 5 NY, "We display places that people can visit or interact with in the real world by using a variety of sources, including third-party information and feedback from our community. If we can confirm that a business has closed for any reason – including license issues – we’ll reflect that it’s closed in the listing."

Going after big tech is just one of the governor's latest tactics to root out illicit shops. She is also now calling for states and localities to padlock the doors of unlicensed stores that have been caught-- rather than just issue fines.  She's asking for the state legislature’s help to get that done.